On January 1, 2020 it was announced by his family that long time Albuquerque City Councilor Ken Sanchez had passed away. He was 63. He suffered a major medical episode in November of last year and was hospitalized. Under the City Charter, Mayor Tim Keller will appoint a replacement to serve out the remaining two years of his term and that person will have to stand for re election in 2021 if they want to continue to serve. The West-side City Council District encompasses most of the area west of the Rio Grande between Central and Montaño.
SOME BIG SHOES TO FILL
City Councilor Ken Sanchez represented District 1 with great distinction and he was extremely well like by his constituents. Many of his West side constituents referred to Ken Sanchez as the West side’s Mayor or “the champion for the West side.” He was a hard-working public servant without question and always worked for what was in the best interest of his constituents. The one word that is always used when talking about Ken Sanchez is “gentleman”. He had the common touch and always went out of his way to be gracious and courteous to all those he came in contact with him.
Councilor Ken Sanchez was first elected to the city council in 2005 and elected to 4 terms as a city councilor, serving for 14 years District 1, the central west side district of Albuquerque. During his time on the City Council, he served as City Council President in 2010, 2014, and 2018 and served as Committee of the Whole Chairman in 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2011 and working towards balanced and responsible budgets. Councilor Sanchez was also appointed Chair of the Finance and Government Committee in 2012. In 2012 Councilor Sanchez was unanimously elected Chair of the Albuquerque/Bernalillo Water Utility Authority. Councilor Sanchez also served the community for two terms on the Bernalillo County Commissioner from 1995-2002.
Throughout his years on the city council, Councilor Ken Sanchez was committed to improving the lives of Albuquerque’s Westside residents and the city as a whole. He worked with the residents of the city, the Albuquerque Police Department and the Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Department to address the needs of Public Safety in general. Among his many efforts, he worked with the community, the City Council, all Mayors and other elected officials, and local businesses to bring much needed economic retail development to the Westside. He worked to bring more jobs and places for people to shop near their homes on the West side.
SIXTEEN APPLICANTS WITH DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS
The Keller Administration released the names of the applicants, along with their for Ken Sanchez’s Albuquerque City Council seat, but did so only after the Albuquerque Journal filed an Inspection of Public Records request to get the applicants names and their supporting documentation. See full story on applicants at below link. Mayor Tim Keller appointed committee to “vet” the applicants. Keller for his part has been interviewing applicants and no doubt is being lobbied by many.
The names of the 16 applicants are:
1. Barbara Baca, the former City Parks and Recreation Director, now retired, and . elected member of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District board. Baca is also the daughter of long time former Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Baca who was Ken Sanchez’s predecessor on the City Council.
2. Michael Gallegos, former Las Vegas, N.M., City Councilor who served for 12 years.
3. Daniel Green, a grocery store supervisor.
4. Kristopher Finfrock-Martinez who lives in Tijeras but disclosed he has lived in District 1 before and plans to move back. The city charter mandates that City Councilor must be residents of their Districts so he in all likely is disqualified. Mr. Finfrock-Martinez has said he is a “proud supporter” of Republican President Donald Trump.
5. Michael Gary Garcia, a pharmacist who has said he graduated with Sanchez from West Mesa High School.
6. Attorney Damian Lara, a 2018 Democratic primary candidate for the city’s U.S. House of Representatives seat vacated by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
7. Angelo Lujan, who interned in the Mayor’s Office under both Mayor Berry and Mayor Keller and who now works for a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities.
8. Jaclyn Sanchez, Councilor Sanchez’s daughter and a local salon owner.
9. Victor Segura, a small-business owner who was also a city hall appointee of Mayor Martin Chavez.
10. Dan Serrano, current member of the city’s Environmental Planning Commission and founder of the ABQWest Chamber of Commerce.
11. Melonie Mathews, program director for the Gathering of Nations Ltd.
12. Andres Rivera, a University of New Mexico School of Law student.
13. Thanh-Lan T Sena, who said she wants to be the first Vietnamese-American woman to serve on the Albuquerque City Council.
14. Jeff Turcotte, a coach and activities director for St. Pius X High School.
15. Dr. Joe Valles, a dentist and former president of the West Side Coalition.
16. Pete Zollinger, longtime Democratic Party political activist who ran for congress and the Democratic nominee against former Republican United States Congressman Steve Schiff.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Mayor Tim Keller’s appointment for a replacement of Ken Sanchez is without a doubt one of the most critical appointments of his tenure as Mayor. The fact that there are 16 applicants for the political appointment means that the Mayor runs the risk of alienating and offending 15 of the applicants. Keller has already announced that he is seeking a second four year term as Mayor, and whoever he selects will be on the November 2021 ballot with him.
City Councilor Ken Sanchez and Mayor Tim Keller did not always get along. Councilor Sanchez was known for having an independent streak always concerned for what was in the best interests of his constituents. Ken Sanchez was considered a moderate democrat attuned to the needs of his constituents. There were many times Councilor Sanchez would vote against what a Mayor wanted, including Keller.
Mayor Tim Keller is considered a “progressive democrat” and won in 2017 with the overwhelming support of the “progressive wing” of the Democratic party commonly referred to as “the Bernie Sanders” wing of the party. City Hall sources and insiders are saying Keller is under pressure to select a strong progressive Democrat, preferably a woman, to fill the position.
Mayor Keller would be wise to select a replacement for Ken Sanchez and appoint someone, female or male, who is in the same political vein as Ken Sanchez philosophically and who fully understands the district and who is committed to continuing the work of City Councilor Ken Sanchez including his plans for the westside, even if contrary to what Mayor Tim Keller may want or feels what is in the best interest of the Westside.